UC Berkeley colleges, departments consider alternative grading policies amid pandemic

Photo of Dwinelle Hall
Maddie Fruman/File
The economics and political science departments addressed the potential consequences of the pass/no pass grading option, including impacts on instructors’ ability to provide letters of recommendation and graduate schools’ evaluations of students.

Related Posts

Several UC Berkeley colleges and departments are considering alternative grading policy options in light of the College of Letters and Science’s pass/no pass, or P/NP, policy update Thursday.

College of Letters and Science, or L&S, Dean Bob Jacobsen announced the college will allow students to take major requirements P/NP for the fall 2020 and spring 2021 semesters, according to an email sent to L&S students. Most other campus colleges and several L&S departments have yet to make a final decision regarding the P/NP grading option.

“Part of the reason these decisions are tricky is that grades do exist for a reason,” Jacobsen said. “With other colleges and departments, I think they’re really worried about a cumulative knowledge issue where students won’t be able to learn if they P/NP major classes across multiple semesters. So they may end up with different decisions, especially since the disciplines are different.”

The College of Chemistry announced its decision to allow students to take major requirements P/NP this academic year, and it extended the late change of schedule deadline to Dec. 3, according to an email sent to the college’s students Friday.

However, the Haas School of Business announced Sunday that it would not implement the P/NP grading option for major requirements and prerequisite courses, according to an Instagram post from the ASUC Office of the Academic Affairs Vice President, or AAVP. The school extended the late change of schedule deadline to Dec. 3.

The Rausser College of Natural Resources announced in an email to its students Friday that it would extend the deadline for changing grading options to Dec. 3 and is currently considering the P/NP option for major requirements.

While L&S has decided to allow major requirements to be taken P/NP, individual departments have the ability to adjust their grading policies to fit the major’s curriculum, according to Jacobsen. Departments such as economics, data science and political science have confirmed the P/NP grading policy change in emails to their students.

“One thing some departments want to emphasize is that switching a course to P/NP may not always be the best option in all circumstances,” Jacobsen said. “There are other options and tools for students, such as dropping a course without penalty to reduce workload, which may be a better way to cope with everything while still making progress.”

The economics and political science departments addressed the potential consequences of the P/NP option, including impacts on instructors’ ability to provide letters of recommendation and graduate schools’ evaluations of students.

According to AAVP Nicole Anyanwu, the AAVP office was the first to advocate the policy change in August and continues to be involved in advising the remaining three colleges to implement the P/NP grading option as well.

“What we stress with administrators and colleges is that this is about supporting students and giving them the flexibility to make their own decisions regarding their personal, academic and personal circumstances,” said James Weichert, one of the AAVP chiefs of staff. “We are optimistic and excited about the possibility of bringing these types of equity-saving policy accommodations to the rest of the university.”

Contact Annika Kim Constantino at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @AnnikaKimC.